Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Korea one

Time to start naming these things with numbers to keep them in order.

Yaki mandu, was there ever a more delightful word? It is pronounced yock e mon due and is basically a fried shell with rice noodles, onions, scallions and stuff I don't recognize packed inside. I really love these things and haven't had them in years. I wonder why? I also truly love a dish called bulgoki or bull go gee. Seen several different spellings on that one but the pronounciation remains the same. Still haven't tried bibimbop (?) soup yet but do plan on it as it comes highly recommended.

Our doorknobs don't have keys. It is a numbered keypad so you don't have to worry about forgetting your keys someplace. Frankly, I like it this way. So long as you can remember your personal code you can get into the house. GW gave me a mini course on how to do it.

Gwyndolyn asked to be called either Gwyn or G W. I truly think she prefers G W, but am sticking with Gwyn for now. All the teachers at school call her Gwyn per her request. I like that she has stated a preference.

G W and I have been playing catch every evening with a Larry the Cucumber stuffed toy. I couldn't find a ball at first and considering the control and variety of pitches she use's I'm glad for old soft sided Larry. It only hurts when one of his plastic eyes hits me. All us gal folks are trying to learn to hula hoop. Karen and I look pretty danged funny and I'm glad no one is videoing us. I used to be the hula hoop queen when I was younger but now can't seem to remember whether to move hips or belly or knees so everything gets involved. It ain't pretty. Plenty of laughs though so we keep at it.

Michael Jackson is still pretty hot here although you can't imagine how fun it sounds to hear Thriller in Korean. The music is the same but the words sure aren't. Depending on where you are when you hear it, you get either version but you do get it. lot's of it.

We went on a wine making tour couple of days ago that was pretty neat. The main bottling plant gave us a mini tour of what the different farmers do and took us outside to a bus. We passed a group of Korean school children maybe 5 or 6 years old. Maybe younger as they looked so small but most Koreans are pretty small compared to us. The children were shouting 'hello hello hello' and waving their hands at us. We all responded hello which made them giggle and jump about. Gwynn had taught me how to say hello in Korean so I bowed and said "on ya say so" which broke them up laughing. I did get several bows back and later learned the correct way to say it is on ya say oh. I'm going to give up on trying to use correct spelling as I'm probably wrong and those of you using screen readers would get it quicker than having to back tract by letter. Those kids were great and helped make the day for me.

The winery had only been open for one year so vintage 2010 was the hit. They had us walk down into the carefully maintained vineyards to pick our own grapes. The walk past rice fields and different vegetable patches was an experience all by it's self. We took our grapes to a room with tables and began squishing them into plastic tubs. Messy work with lots of laughs, they added sugar as their soil is different than California's and the sugar content is lower. A couple of bits of stuff to kill any germs and yeast for those wanting to make wine. Our buckets are now sitting in the utility room where they get stirred twice a day for a week. It looks pretty ugly with the skins floating on top although it does smell pretty good. G W and I are making grape juice out of ours. The stuff they served at the winery was cold and thick and very delicious. I want more of it! Heck with the wine the juice was the best treat.
The drive there and back was an adventure too. My first time to get outside into the countryside and really see things. The clusters of little buildings in farming communities. The rice fields patchworked with what I think is grape vines. They all have coverings to keep bugs and birds off and they lay mats down between the rows so you can easily walk out to pick. I think most of the picking is still done by hand unlike Italy where they use a giant vacuum cleaner type deal.
Throw this in while I am thinking about it.Seoul is still Seoul. The airport is Incheon! There might be a small town near it named that also.
We had a contest to see who picked the grape with the highest sugar content. A 3 year old girl won that one. We also spit grape skins for distance. My spit was only a couple of feet but one woman spit about 15 feet and landed it on her husbands head! Plus she had a baby in her arms while doing it. She got the prize for spitting. The kids got to run around and play on some gravel and dirt behind the main buildings. Gwynn fell and skinned up her knee. She jumped to her feet and said "I'm alright, I'm alright". She ran another lap and fell again skinning the other leg and making a bloody mess on both legs. She again jumps up and says "I'm alright" Then she spreads her hands out in this funny adult gesture and says "okay everyone.. I....am....alright...it's okay". Cute as a button and quite the little trooper as her entire legs are scratched along with arms and hands. She falls a lot, always has, we think it might have something to do with depth perception (she is near sighted) and (I think) her skinny ankles. She has what used to be described as a well turned ankle. Now I think of it as a frequently turned ankle cause she does go down a lot. Tough chicka as she bounces right up. I've seen her whack her side into a table hard enough to stagger the table, she'll pause, suck in her breath and sort of mentally shake it off with an I"m alright exclamation.
After leaving the vineyard we stopped at a restaurant that specializes in Bulgogi. We were going to one that has bone soup but one of the guests insisted she hated it so we wound up going to the one all American's like. Bulgogi. I am still happily eating it as it is so good. We took off our shoes at the entrance then sit on the floor at these low tables. Each table has a wok like pan sitting on a gas burner. There is a special vent that hangs from the ceiling down to just above that pan to keep steam away. The wok has a bubbling stew of meat on the bottom, then onions and spices on top of that. On the very top is a circle of rice noodles making the whole thing look like art. You are given scissors, spoons, chopsticks and tongs. You start by cutting the noodles up and then the meat. A server came along and helped me with mine. I don't know if I was that bad or if he was that helpful. Knowing the Koreans now I suspect it was his wanting to help an American. Our tables full of white faces is still enough of a difference that we stand out. They had side dishes of kimchee, spicy fish, sea weed, bean paste and rice. I took some pictures but wish I had photographed everything.
There are lots of mountains around us, not as high or as steep as rockies, more of a gentler look to them. I suppose age may have something to do with it as I've been told the rockies are a young mountain range. Not sure what accounts for young when you are around the million mark.
Last night Gary and I went to dinner with a fellow soldier Katie and Dr Shin. His name is spelled s y n n although it's pronounced shin just like our yard man. We ate at an Italian restaurent that was reserved for a performance by some Korean opera singers. 2 women soprano's although one of them seemed more like an alto to me. But heck, I am definately not a songstress as you all know. They opened their mouths to sink and I was carried away by such beautiful voices. The pianist was marvelous too, but oh those voices. Don't cry for me Argentina was sang in Korean except for the title line which was in English. You didn't have any trouble figuring out what the song was though as soon as she started it. Wow. Their dresses looked like 1920's vamp. They were so beautiful to look at and listen to I felt transported to a wonderful dream land. They each did 5 songs, but we called them back for several encores. The owner of the restaurent is a Korean man who goes by the name of Carlo. He was solicitous of us and one of those sparkly people who love what they are doing in life.
Karen had made a pumpkin dessert for the first get together with the new kids in the Korean / American friendship circle. Dr. Shin must have really enjoyed it as the next day he asked to have some of it to take home to his wife. Then he added his Mother in Law who lives with them. I'm thinking he liked it just fine. He even came home from the restaurant last night to get it and take it home. He's a nice man. An internist. I had all I could do not to pump his brain for information on Nick.
Speaking of Nick, those of you who don't know this. Nick is a member of my extended family. He is terribly sick right now, in Intensive care with a huge MRSA infection throughout his entire body. He has a liver problem so his immune system is always low leaving him open to infection. This time it got really bad really fast. The doc says 6 to 12 weeks minimum in intensive care. He's in a lot of pain and is one sick little boy. Oh, Nick is 11. Pnumonia + cracked rib + fluid collecting around liver & spleen + kidneys not working. Nicks very sick and I am asking you guys to pray for him. His whole family is suffering right now. So those of you who are the praying type, add Nick Bowne to your list. Those of you who aren't... well... this would be a good time to start.

Daegu is a huge active city. The streets right around the military posts look kind of run down and seedy during the day. A bit better at night when all the lights come on, but still run down. The rest of the city is very clean, bright, colorful and crowded. Bill boards here are metal posts about 10 yards apart. They stretch colorful banners between the posts. Most of them are about 24 inches high and fill up all the space between the poles. Even high rise buildings have neon lights and banners on each floor. They love their colors here and use them happily.
There are restaurants that have metal drums with a table top attached to them. The top of the drum has a grill plate. You sit on chairs around the drum and cook your own food. The servers bring you plates of raw meat and veggies. You sit around chatting while cooking. Everyone eats from the same pot. The same as with the bulgogi. I can't get the hang of chop sticks yet. My fingers twirl around those metal sticks and food goes flying. I'm going to start carrying plastic forks around with me.
Speaking of food. Every salad here has been mouth watering, delicious. If I can find a cookbook with salad making instructions in English I'm bringing it back with me. I keep getting caught up in the darned fish stuff but can cover by filling up on salad. The dinner with the opera singers was 7 courses and at least 5 of them involved shrimp or clams. I thought I would be safe with the ravioli but it was the fishiest of them all. Gary and I exchanged plates several times during dinner so he could eat my fish stuff and I ate the salad. He's a great guy to serve as a back up for me.
Yesterday while walking to the taxi stand Gwyn suddenly announced she is going to marry MyJohn when she wakes up! Just out of the blue like. They are going to have a lot of babies, 3 of which are going to be named Lydia, Mina and Hercules. I asked what about me and she flipped her wrist at me and said, oh you can marry someone else and be our kids Grandmother. Cute kid, eh?
Katie spent a weekend at a Buddhist temple learning about their lives. She did 108 'fetal position' bows and walked a quarter mile where you take 3 steps then kneel and bow. Her muscles were so sore the next day she could hardly move. They ate the same food as the monks and slept on the temple floor on blankets same as the monks. She had a blast and learned a lot. She's a good advocate for America as she will try anything. Some other Americans actually demanded better food and then walked out! It was very embarrassing for Katie. She put the tour together and had been very specific about what to expect. Why would you sign up for something and then not want to do it? She is still embarrassed and hurt by it.
Small post, lots of walking. I've lost 7 pounds! My knee is crazy out of whack but so far is still letting me go. I'm delighted. Korea is different than I thought it would be and I have so much to see yet.
This is long enough.
Oh wait. I forwarded the first couple of emails to someone who wasn't on the list. Unfortunately I didh't realize that by forwarding it I was also sending it to everyone on the BCC list. So you all probably got them all over again. I hope to have that corrected now and will try hard not to over whelm you with copies.
Comb sahme dah Emily

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